The Need for Public Bathrooms

The Need for Public Bathrooms ↓

Accessible, clean, and safe public bathrooms are a necessity in a city as large, dense, and diverse as New York. Like housing, public bathrooms are a basic need, a human right, a public health concern, and a necessary piece of urban infrastructure. This project proposes design, finance, and maintenance solutions for the City of New York to provide public bathrooms across the five boroughs.

Access to public bathrooms is not a new issue in New York. Four City administrations and numerous advocacy groups, including the Urban Justice Center and Picture the Homeless, have been trying to expand New Yorkers’ access to public bathrooms.

Past initiatives have continually stalled. What are the barriers to providing clean and safe public bathrooms?

About this Book ↓

This booklet highlights the importance of public bathrooms in the public realm, especially in improving public health and promoting human rights. We summarize research compiled over the course of a year from our readings, interviews, meetings, and analysis related to public bathrooms.

We hope this booklet will serve as a resource for citizens, advocates, architects, urban planners, elected officials, government agencies, local business owners, and others to understand the benefits of public bathrooms, in the hope that we can increase the number of available facilities in our city.

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Forefront Fellowship ↓

This booklet was produced by Julie Chou, Kevin A. Gurley, and Boyeong Hong in 2020 as part of the 2018-2019 Forefront Fellowship at the Urban Design Forum.

The 2018-2019 Forefront Fellowship explored how to design shelters and shape the public realm to turn the tide on homelessness in New York City. In the first phase of the fellowship, Fellows partnered with the New York City Department of Homeless Services to visit shelters, interview stakeholders, and draft guidelines on how to design homeless shelters across the city. In the second phase, Fellows worked with community-based organizations to develop independent projects to support people experiencing homelessness.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of the Urban Design Forum.

Who We Are ↓

Julie Chou, AIA
Julie Chou, AIA, is a founding partner at Purpose by Design Architects, which she founded in 2022 with two colleagues from Magnusson Architecture & Planning. She believes in the importance of building relationships and community; in the collective right to healthy, safe, sustainable, and equitable spaces; and in the dignity of all people. She is a member of Manhattan Community Board 5 and leads a public bathroom working group with members from several community boards. She holds a BA in economics from UChicago and a BArch from Cooper Union.

Kevin A. Gurley, AICP
Kevin Gurley is an urban planner and Manager of Planning at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), where he manages the planning of transit system expansion and enhancement projects. He has experience working on architecture and planning projects in cities in the US, Mexico, and China. He holds a Master in Urban Planning degree from Harvard University and a Master of Architecture from Florida International University in Miami.

Boyeong Hong
Boyeong Hong is a Research Fellow in the Civic Analytics Program at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management. Her research interests focus on how to apply urban informatics to real world problems in urban planning and operations. Boyeong has been an affiliated adjunct faculty at Columbia University, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Boyeong earned a Ph.D. in Civil and Urban Engineering, majoring in Urban Informatics from New York University.

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